Well last week there were almost 500 public sector jobs advertised in the Guardian, this week there are over 500 (526 to be precise!) and a distinct overuse of the word ‘champion’ as various councils and quangos seek to hire armies of highly paid cheerleaders to ‘motivate’ their frontline workers.
In second place this week is the West Midlands Police Authority who’re looking for a ‘Community Engagement Officer’ (salary; £25,731 - £31,146), and if you think that sounds like it might be something close to a police officer then you'll be disappointed. Full sentences are pretty redundant in the world of quango job descriptions, replaced by a clusters of buzzy words, so if I said ‘focus groups’; ‘discussion’; ‘networks’; ‘innovative’; ‘community’; ‘partnership’; and ‘activities’, then you’ve probably pretty well got the gist of this post. They don’t mention catching criminals or preventing crime but then why would they?
Coming in at number one though we have the now notorious London Borough of Tower Hamlets who’ve taken out two almost confrontationally big adverts in the paper, one of which calls for a new:
“Head of Clean and Green
£57,111 - £59,982
The Clean and Green Service is a new and innovative function, we're looking for a dynamic, experienced manager who can unify services to deliver corporate objectives, has expert knowledge of the issues, practices and principles associated with delivering front line services - including everything from refuse collection and recycling to parks management, graffiti removal, and streetworks. You will effectively lead and develop these vitally important functions, motivate staff to exceed their expectations and improve customer perception and satisfaction by guaranteeing high-quality, efficient, effective and economic services. We'll be looking to you to champion our vision to deliver localised services, encourage partnership working, innovation and continuous improvement”.
A new function? It must be pretty groundbreaking if it warrants the use of the word ‘innovative’ twice in the same paragraph. But hold on a second, who on earth within this local authority is sat dreaming up ‘new functions’ when we’re in the middle of a recession still and councils are supposed to be cutting costs/trimming away fat? And that’s a pretty whopping salary for the head of a ‘function’ that they’ve never needed before!
This person will be unifying various existing functions by the sounds of it, motivating the underlings (that’s a given), championing the vision and ‘improving public perception’ – presumably by press releasing a few pictures of people clearing graffiti/emptying bins etc every now and then.
The key to this job ad is really in a conspicuous phrase that epitomises this sort of new-fangled public sector position – the person hired will be responsible for ‘continuous improvement’. What is continuous improvement? If you continually improve, won’t you reach perfection at some stage, from which point there is no longer any improvement to be made? No no, not possible, because roles like ‘Head of Clean and Green’ will always self-perpetuate. Even if this time next year the borough had rows of immaculate streets, graffiti-less walls and a futuristically efficient recycling set-up, if you were to ask whether the Head of Clean and Green’s work is done, you’d get a plethora excuses to justify their continued presence at the authority and be told of the many more improvements that can be made whilst the role's defenders simultaneously try to dazzle you with these past achievements.
The Head of Clean and Green has sprung fully formed from the head of Zeus and is here to stay, but the question we must really ask is, for all this outlay and the invention of this new ‘Clean and Green Service’, will taxpayers really see any true, measurable impact on the environment they live in? Sadly, either way, you can guarantee this post and its supporting service will be here to stay.